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This week on the Writer’s Way podcast, Seasonal Children’s Books!
Guest Kelly Grettler shares that every writer needs to know, as well as stories from her own publishing journey over the last year since she last appeared on the Writer’s Way podcast.
Joining me for the first time? Start at the beginning HERE
Find this episode on YouTube HERE
Would you rather listen on the go? Go HERE
Find Kelly’s books and website HERE
Follow Kelly on Facebook HERE
Find Kelly on Amazon HERE
Make a connection with Kelly on Instagram HERE
Fall in love with 12-year-old Solomea Kalinichenko’s artwork on Instagram
Fabulous Facebook group we talk about –> Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling
Laurie: Hello Writers! Welcome back to this episode of the Writer’s Way podcast. Today I have the fabulous Kelly Grettler almost at our one year anniversary. I think of when you were on as one of my very first guests so welcome.
Kelly: I think we are exactly at our one year. So thank you for having me back. I’m so honored to be here.
Laurie: You’re welcome. Why don’t we start with, for people who of course didn’t see that first episode, a bit about your background and how you started writing books and then we’ll get into your seasonal books.
Kelly: Okay. Well my background is I’m a stay-at-home mom. My kids are teenagers now and about to fly the coop. I’ve been married for 27 years and I was, for a couple of years in there, a preschool teacher’s aide and working with the kids reminded me of how much I’ve always loved being a storyteller.
A Little Bit about Kelly’s Writing Career
Kelly: And so after a couple of years of that I decided to start writing down all the stories that I’ve always written. I wrote some back when my boys were babies and didn’t do anything with them. And so I got the gumption to figure out what to do with those and that was exactly three years ago that I started working on my first book and now I am about to publish my tenth.
Laurie: Wow! Congrats!
Kelly: I know I’m very excited.
Laurie: The one you’re doing right now you’re redoing? Is that the one you talked about?
Kelly: I’m redoing my first. Underneath the Mimosa Tree was my first and I rushed that one with the illustrations and I’ve always felt a little self-conscious about those and so I found a beautiful illustrator. She lives in Pakistan and she re-illustrated it for me over the summer. And I’ll be putting that out in December around the anniversary of when I put it out three years ago. But my newest book – I’m just going to do a quick little plug because I have like five proof copies here because I keep having to reorder the proof. It’s called God Always Hears and I wrote this one in – was it?
So my surgery was in November, it was probably January of this year that I wrote about what I went through but from a child’s perspective and it’s about facing hospitals and fear and the power of prayer and getting you through. And this one I’m about to release on October 25th, because it’s the anniversary of when all that journey began for me.
Kelly: But it’s a year, and I’m done and I’m so excited.
Laurie: Yes. Oh, I love it.
About Kelly’s Illustrator
Kelly: This will be my 10th book.
Laurie: Okay, and it’s so different than the other ones.
Kelly: It’s so different. I got hired an illustrator named Solomea Kalinichenko. She is. She recently turned 12 and she lives in Ukraine. She’s incredibly… Let me see if I can do this.
Laurie: She’s 12!?
Kelly: She’s 12! She was 11 when I started. Let me zoom in on her.
A Serendipitous Story
Laurie: Where did you find this eleven year old?
Kelly: I know I found her by accident. Here she is. She’s gorgeous. And there’s a little ‘About the Illustrator’. I found her on Instagram. I was looking through Instagram and sometimes I follow illustrators. It looked like she drew me! There was this painting of a lady in a green dress with pink flowers -because I had just gone through breast cancer – and it had Shamrocks and it had wavy reddish brown hair and I was like, oh my gosh, this girl drew me.
I clicked on it and I started looking at her artwork and I was drawn to her artwork. It was very angelic. So I reached out to her and I’m like, “I just wrote a book. Would you be interested in illustrating it?” And she will tell you – I put it in the ‘About the Illustrator’. The night before I reached out to her, she was praying with her mom saying “Mom, will I ever be an illustrator?” Her mom said “I believe in you” and the very next morning Kelly Grettler’s typing on her Instagram. “Hey, would you be interested in illustrating my book?” So she’s like ‘God heard me’ and that is why this is called God Always Hears. I didn’t have a title yet.
She’s Way Beyond Her Years!
The whole thing is just meant to be and I mean look at these illustrations. She’s way beyond her years with talent. They’re just gorgeous.
Laurie: Does she do acrylic paint or watercolor?
Kelly: I’m not sure. I think she does acrylic. They’re just gorgeous.
Laurie: Is this the first book she’s done?
Kelly: I am her first book. She recently, in Ukraine, drew beautiful big paintings for a palliative care center. She’s going to have a real successful career and I’m blessed and lucky to have gotten a little bit of Solomea. I can’t wait to see what she does with her life because she’s only 12.
Laurie: That is an amazing story. I didn’t realize that about her. That’s so serendipitous. Exactly meant to be.
Kelly’s Seasonal Book Set
Laurie: You have 10 books. How many are seasonal books?
Kelly: I have one, two, three, four. These are: What’s the Season Fall? What’s the Season Winter? What’s the Season Summer? And What’s the Season Spring? I figured out how to make them a box set.
Here they are. Although don’t get too excited. It doesn’t have a bottom. I have to tie it. I’m still new. I don’t know what I’m doing.
Laurie: Whatever works. How did you do that?
Kelly: What’s it called? I don’t remember. I’ll have to send you the link. At some boxy store thing.
I haven’t done it for about a year because I got so many sent to me that I don’t need more yet. Honestly, because there’s no bottom and they slide out, it’s kind of a pain. I have them in a local store, but I haven’t tied cutely. The verdict isn’t in yet whether or not I recommend it. I sell it as the set on the back, but I think it really is not …
Laurie: Do you sell them as a set on your website?
Kelly: No, I don’t sell on my website. I think I sell them on Etsy as a set. People aren’t really jumping to get this and they tend to get whatever season we’re in in local shops.
Right now we’re in the fall. So I’m noticing my fall books are starting to take off, but as a set people aren’t as interested. Yet for whatever reason, like we talked about, I don’t know if I’m pushing it as much.
Laurie: And really you’ve had a different kind of a year where you haven’t been…
Kelly: I did. I took a huge step back from all the authoring and all the stuff.
Her Other Seasonal Books
Kelly: Those are four. And then I’ve got – I don’t know if this would be considered seasonal but it’s it’s a Spooky sort of, not really spooky but it’s about a monster. So that might – I push that one around October and then this one I wrote at the end of last year and this one of my favorites.
It’s the I think Marvelous Much Loved Christmas Tree and I just adore this book.
Laurie: So I think I missed that one could show some of the inside Pages?
Kelly: Yes, you missed it because I literally scrambled to put it out right before my surgery last year and then I couldn’t push it. Like it’s just all about like the coziness of Christmas, you know, I illustrated this one myself. So it’s the decorated house. Hold on. We got like …
Laurie: Oh, yeah
Kelly: Stockings and a cat and then all the fun, you know, how you love a good Christmas tree with all the weird wonky ornaments that the kids have at school. These are all my like we have these exact ornaments like I drew them.
Santa Read Kelly’s Christmas Book!
Kelly: Oh, that was fun. Anyway, I did get invited to – it was last December – to a Christmas party in our community. Santa was there and Santa read my book. I was the most excited I’ve ever been as an author. When he was reading to the children I was filming but I was also making sales at that event.
I had my little Square thingy in my phone and note to self the Square thingy. If that’s in your phone when you’re recording all you’re going to get is a high-frequency. I came home from that thing and I was so excited and I went to my family. “It’s Santa reading my book!” I played it and all the dogs were in the room and all you heard was [high-pitched noise] the dogs started howling and I’m like wait, maybe it fixes itself halfway through so we were listening to the entire three minutes of Santa reading the book, but all we heard was high frequency and the dogs are screaming, kids are like ‘turn it off’!
Laurie: Oh darn! Maybe it’ll happen again this year.
Kelly: I know I need to go find Santa.
Laurie: Santa reading your book, my goodness.
Kelly: It was fun. That’s something you can do. If you put out a Christmas book, go find you a Santa.
Laurie: Yeah, that’s awesome. I would think that teachers would buy this set to teach…
Kelly: That’s a good idea. I need to push them. Yeah, you know, I’m bad at that Laurie. Let me write that down.
Laurie: Well because I’m sure it’s part of the curriculum in pre-k and K. I don’t know what you call it there,
Kelly: You’re so true
How do seasonal books sell compared to non-seasonal books?
Laurie: Or five three four five. So, how do they – how do your seasonals sell compared to non-seasonals?
Kelly: Well, my best seller is Sweet Tea by the Live Oak Tree and that one I’m still not as good as some of these people that I’m seeing on the sites. But Sweet Tea, I sell probably about 20 to 30 about a day, which I’m proud of that. That’s not bad.
Kelly: But my Seasons I’ll sell – like fall right now. I’m selling about 10 a day of fall on KDP because I’m not really pushing it where I should be.
I have a stack of these in our local one of our local little stores and they have like 10 in there. But yeah for now, I’m kind of just KDP-ing it because I’m working so hard on my other book. I need to reel it in. I’m so all over the place.
Laurie: Well, there’s a lot to do always right?
Kelly: It is especially when you have more than one book like you need – you probably have a better organizational system.
And you dedicate your…
Laurie: I don’t know if I do. I don’t know.
How Did Kelly Get Her Book into a Local Store?
Laurie: So people will ask for the local store. Did you just go in one day and say hey, can you carry my books?
Kelly: I did I actually did it first with Underneath the Mimosa Tree because that was my first book and that’s the one with the not-so-great illustrations.
Kelly: And I can talk freely about that now because I’ve come to terms with it and I’m having it re-Illustrated. But when I walked in it’s literally the cutest shop in the world and I walked in and I was all nervous and I said here’s a copy of my book. Would you please consider it? I’ll leave it with you.
You can make your decision and then I never heard from them again. I was like, oh no. So I, I followed up after a while. She’s like, yeah. We love the book, but we’re not going to lie. It just it doesn’t look professional enough and if it’s not in a pretty enough package. It can be the best book in the world.
It was my first real lesson and I came home and I was all upset and my husband bought me some awesome illustrator software like that day and then I got a little bit better. So like I Illustrated these ones myself and I think these ones aren’t bad like they’re a little more professional.
Laurie: What was the software?
Kelly: Well the software actually. He didn’t buy the software. He bought me the tablet. The software I use it’s a free software called Krita and I try to always tell people about it. It’s spelled k-r-i-t-a and it’s completely free to download and it’s got all the bells and whistles of the really big ones. And I don’t even know how to use any hardly any of the bells and whistles, but then he bought me a nice tablet that I use with like a stylist.
Laurie: Oh, so it’s like drawing. That’s neat.
Kelly: Yeah, and I mean I when it comes to my really pretty books like my new one I want I feel like I can’t do that justice. I can’t draw faces for the life of me. So that’s why I got Sola Mia who can draw things like this.
Laurie: Oh, yeah eyes are hard.
Kelly: They end up looking creepy. But so anyway, that was when I first walked into that shop and so I walked back in with a little bit more pride with my Seasons books after I Illustrated them and I said, I am here to try again with your cute shop and this time she looked at it.
She said yeah we’ll take it and so she put it she – the owner she – every time the seasons change, they change like their storefront and everything and they always stick like my book kind of right in there with all the cuteness. So I’m always proud about that.
The Benefit of Writing Multiple Seasonal Books
Laurie: Oh, that’s lovely. Well, that’s nice. Would you do another Seasons type books though you’ve done all four? But would you do a specific Easter or something else? Have you been turned off of it? Or is it good enough?
Kelly: I think I would do more. I have a story that I’ve written, but I don’t want to say I don’t have time, but I guess I just haven’t had time. About a beach. I keep having tree themes. This one is called Underneath the Coconut Tree, but that’s seasonal and beachy. So I would absolutely keep doing seasonal ones.
Laurie: Okay, I see you have a tree series.
Kelly: I have yeah.
Laurie: You’re obsessed with trees.
Kelly: I don’t know what an Easter tree one could be.
Yeah, I would absolutely keep going with this. It’s great because then you can market them heavy during those months.
Laurie: Right and it’s nice for you because you have something to market each of the seasons because you’ve done these four books. A lot of people just have say a Halloween book or just a Christmas book.
So they feel their selling window is three or four months and that’s it. But the way you’ve done it is smart because maybe your Halloween or your Fall one won’t sell in March, but then you have something else to push.
Kelly: Yeah, and I’ll up my my budget a little higher depending on when it is. Right now my fall budget is higher but what I’m noticing is, some of my other season books, like even the winter and spring ones, are starting to sell because I think people are going on and seeing my fall ad.
Laurie: There’s other ones. Yeah. Those are probably teachers.
Kelly’s Marketing Advice
Laurie: Excellent. Do you have any advice for authors who are maybe thinking of doing a seasonal book like when to put it out or how to market?
Kelly: Oh my gosh, I feel like I don’t have the right to give marketing advice because I’m so bad at it. But I I would say definitely so for my fall book, I started changing my ads up probably towards the end of the summer because I feel like you know, it’s at the end of the summer all the parents or the teachers are starting to talk about fall of going back to school.
Oh next month. It’s going to be Halloween. So so I would think that’s like the best time so about a month maybe two before. So like my Christmas book, I’ll probably start right around the beginning in November really pushing that one beginning of November.
Laurie: Okay. You say you’re selling 30 a day. So you’re doing something right.
Because there’s a lot of people that are selling one or two or not even so I wouldn’t…
The Effect of Social Media on Self-Confidence
Kelly: I know I need to stop I think I need to quit some of those big those big Facebook groups are so helpful, but then it’s like anything with social media. You’ve got, you know, you’ve got all the love in there, but you’ve also got some trolls and you’ve also got some ‘look at me. I’m so awesome.’ And then it’s just it becomes a little bit toxic for me. If I see somebody saying they’re making 40,000 a day and I’m over here, you know selling 20 books a day. I’m like oh no, I’m never going to get there and I feel bad about myself. I need to stop doing that.
Laurie: You really do. Yeah. Maybe start just searching when you have a specific question and then…
Kelly: Yes, yeah
Laurie: Then you can find answers instead of looking. Yes, there’s a lot of self-promotion in all the groups and I just always think. And I tell my kids this to no matter what you’re doing. There’s always gonna be somebody better. There’s always going to be somebody worse. Like you just have to know during this that you can because you’re never like chances are you’re never going to be the top ever right?
And you know and what you do or how hard you try? It’s just not going to happen most likely. So
Kelly: I love your approach too. You’re – I feel like you’re very humble because you are a very big success in this business, but I never see you posting going ‘look at me like,’ you know with pictures of your graphs with how much money you made last month.
Laurie: Really hard to promote anything. I’m like you it’s hard. It’s hard to talk about myself.
Be Like Kawhi Leonard…Or Not?
Kelly: It is right and I’ve always told my kids you might get a kick out of this because you’re Canadian. Do you have do you follow basketball at all?
And guys? Well, we lost one of our really amazing players here in San Antonio.
Because I don’t know things got real weird and he ended up in Canada last year and his name is Kawhi Leonard, and I’m sure a lot of people know who he is.
Yeah, I just heard of him.
Kelly: Well back when he was here. He I thought he was such a class act before he got weird, but the Spurs and I’m a Spurs fan.
So I’m allowed to use the word weird when it comes to Kawhi Leonard. But anyway, he before all that happened, I would tell my kids all the time be like Kawhi be a Kawhi because he’s so quiet and he’s so humble and he’s super great at his game, but he doesn’t act like it and he doesn’t talk like about you know how awesome he is.
He’s not like that. So that used to be my quote all the time ‘be like Kawhi’ to my kids and then he got really weird and he sat out for a whole year and everyone in San Antonio started hating him. So I was like, okay, I don’t say be like Kawhi anymore, but maybe I can start again.
Laurie: Be like the old Kawhi.
Kelly: We started to heal from that. We’re good. Yeah you guys now too so. Canada probably hates him to now.
We All Deserve Some Grace
Laurie: You know, we all make missteps. We’re having issues with our prime minister right now. Like we always…
Kelly: Saw that this morning I was like, oh my gosh, I love he’s my favorite. I love him. He made a little stupid mistakes in college. That’s. Let’s not go back there. Let’s just love him for who he is.
Laurie: Yeah, I just feel like we all we all deserve some grace we all make mistakes…
Kelly: Who are these people that have video of stuff that happened 20 years ago and pull it up. I just don’t know who those people are.
The Effect of Social Media on Parenting
Laurie: I just feel very very grateful that the you know, social media was not a thing when I was a teenager.
Kelly: Me too. Oh my.
Laurie: I’m so grateful. Oh my god. Yeah, My 11 year old’s asking ‘I need the things I need the tick tock and the Instagram and the this and the …’ No, you don’t.
Kelly: Yeah that’s when you need to get really super hyper Vigilant is around 11 12 13 14. Like I can’t tell you how many times I had to take their stuff from them.
We’re on the other side of it now.
Kelly: It’s a super vigilant time to be a mom.
Laurie: Yeah, I have a mom friend who has four boys and her youngest is the age of my oldest. So she’s like my role model. And so I just think what do you think? What do you do about this? You just tell me like, okay Jackie says this so that’s what I do. That’s all right, Jackie said no. Jackie [laughter] Sorry it’s not my decision.
It’s not that bad, but yeah, it’s all new. It’s all new territory new waters for me. Yeah. Anyway, we all just we deserve some grace is what I think.
Kelly: Yes, we do. Absolutely.
Facebook Groups are Great, Until They’re Not
Laurie: I tune in when I want to and I tune out of those groups, which I, roll my eyes or shake my head and move along. Yeah. Who’s got the time Kelly?
Kelly: Nobody has time for all that.
Laurie: We don’t, no. Yeah, so I hope you allow yourself some grace when you’re looking at some of those.
Kelly: I know I do yesterday I had a little bit of a moment where I was feeling just. I don’t know but I feel better today because my journey is my journey, so I don’t need you know, I don’t need to question every little thing I do. I think I’m doing just with marketing. I think I could really put some more work in. But with my stories and everything, you know.
Laurie: I actually I think I saw somebody was questioning a font or something that you had chosen. And was that your moment? But then I loved your response.
And you said something like “I’m actually really confident in this. So thank you, bye-bye.” Basically is what you said.
Kelly: Yeah, so what happened and now I’m following up on that just because after all that I was really questioning myself and I had so much confidence in this book. It was with this book. Let me let me just here so here’s the font.
Do Extensive Research Before Publishing
Kelly: Backwards but – he was trying to say that kids won’t be able to read it. It’s ugly or whatever he was saying. I had done so much research. I actually bought that font because I loved it so much. And I have a friend that has four, and she’s pregnant with her fifth, kids and her oldest is only in second grade.
So I contacted her last night with a picture and said, “Have her read this and let me know if she struggles with it.” And she said she didn’t struggle with it except for the letter I and I was like, oh no, I have to change my font immediately. She said “Well, wait, it was tiny on my phone.” So I sent her a bigger – I said it’s going to be about a 20 size point font and she said, “Oh she’s great at it.”
What I’m going to do – my hardcover proof comes today – I have like five of these. I’m going to have her read it and I’m going to give it to her as a little prize. If she can read it, I’m going to keep it. It’s first person from a child’s point of view so I like the idea of the child-like font. Anyway, I posted on that site because I was discovering some bleed issues. We were all talking about bleed and I’ve been struggling with bleed.
So I got back on there and I was like, this is what’s going on with bleed and then I get back and immediately “I don’t like that font.” I was like…
Laurie: I did not ask about the font.
Always Read Your Book to Kids Before Publishing
Laurie: Yeah, people are so used to giving their opinions and it’s up to you to take it or not. So I really appreciated your comment. I thought that came across those strong and confident. I loved it and I was like, yeah Kelly. But on the other hand, I like that you did your research in the beginning but then you were questioning it a little bit, so you did some more research and read it to real-life children and that’s…
And maybe in six months or a year if you get a lot of people saying I loved the book, the art was great, but I couldn’t read it, you know, then then maybe the time to fix it. But now it’s it hasn’t even been given a chance. So I feel like you did your due diligence. Brush that comment away. Bye bye.
Kelly: I know. I ended up deleting the comment or deleting the whole post like I don’t want any negativity because I thought there’s so many people in this group and I just want people to love my stuff. And instead I just think they’re all going to look at it through the filter of that and … I still have a month til I publish so we’ll see what this little girl says.
Kelly: It’s kind of all right on her shoulders.
Laurie: Oh goodness. Don’t put that on her. It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait for that and I’m happy to share that when that comes out because it’s just gorgeous and I want to share that illustrator story too because I think that’s phenomenal.
Well, I think about my 11 and a half year old kid that I need he’d maybe like to illustrate a book but…
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Kelly: Yeah, I’ll give you the link to her Instagram you want.
Laurie: Yea we’ll put that… Yeah, and I’ll share about that software that you like to share about and thank you so much for coming on and give us giving us your opinion.
Kelly: Thank you for having me.
Laurie: And we’ll see… You’re welcome.
It’s always so nice to talk to you. So I’ll let you get on with your day.
Kelly: Okay, well have a good day Laurie. Thank you so much. Bye guys.
Laurie: Bye! Bye!